Making the clock work for you and not against you is a challenge many business owners struggle with. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be the tech-savviest of entrepreneurs to take advantage of modern technology and create more space on your plate for the work you want–and need– to be doing.
While some things require a personal touch, automating certain processes within your business can be an effective way to save time and money, freeing up those precious resources to be reinvested where your business needs them most.
Here are six ways automation can create more efficiency and time freedom in your business:
#1. Invest in Customer Relationship Management
Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software brings your sales, marketing, and client processes under one umbrella. These platforms create a one-stop shop to help you automate workflows, track client data, identify sales opportunities, manage marketing and email campaigns, and more.
While these systems may have a steeper learning curve than the more niche automation options below, they also create greater efficiency and accessibility for your company in the long run.
If you aren’t ready to dive into the big-picture possibilities automation can offer your business, the following options offer smaller steps to wade into automating your processes without getting overwhelmed by all the things.
#2. Automate Your Client Calendar
Instead of sending emails back and forth around availability or requiring staff to manually schedule client meetings, use a virtual scheduling tool like Square Appointments or Calendly to allow customers to book their own appointments.
These tools allow you to create different types of events so you can tailor the options to your offers. You can also set your availability for each event to protect your time and avoid overbooking. On top of that, most will allow you to automate follow-up emails and meeting reminders, so your clients get all the information they need and are directed to their next steps without you ever having to open your inbox.
#3. Set Up Automatic Email Responses
Depending on the email software you use, the options for automating your emails vary. Still, even the most basic will allow you to set up a vacation responder. While you might traditionally use this when you’re off work for longer periods of time, you can also use this tool when you have a full day of meetings or are attending events to let folks know you’re out of office. This way, your contacts always receive a timely response.
More robust email platforms will also allow you to automate email sequences for launches, events, and lead magnets, as well as set up automatic replies to common customer inquiries, such as scheduling an appointment, confirming receipt of an order, or providing shipping updates.
If your email service does not have more advanced capabilities, and you aren’t interested in finding a new provider, consider creating a document of scripted replies to the questions your team and clients ask most often. This will save you the time and effort of writing a new response to the same questions over and over again. Share the file with your team, so everyone has the answers they need and is on the same page.
#4. Use an Invoicing System
Simplify your invoicing process by using a digital invoicing system that allows you to generate and send invoices automatically. These services will allow you to send a one-time invoice or set up a payment schedule for each client, and you can also create automated reminders for any invoices that linger unpaid for too long. Implementing invoicing software will streamline your invoice process and maintain accessible payment records so you and your accountant can spend less time cobbling them together.
#5. Schedule Your Social Media
Social media can be a fun, creative outlet, but it can also be a major time suck for business owners who are doing it on their own. If that sounds all too familiar, consider using a social media management tool to schedule and automate your posts. Contrary to popular belief, scheduling your social media content does not decrease visibility. In fact, posting consistently is far more likely to increase audience engagement. Scheduling your social media empowers you to be more strategic about when, where, and what you post while freeing up more time in your day-to-day.
#6. Manage Your Projects Virtually
Project management software can simplify your processes by automating task assignments, workflows, progress tracking, and project deadlines, creating more internal visibility and alignment while saving you time and improving team productivity.
When looking for the right project management software for your business, remember to check each option for available integrations. If Zoom, Slack, Google Drive, or any other software is integral to your processes, you’ll want to choose a project management program that is compatible with those platforms.
The Options are Virtually Endless–Choose Wisely
If there is a task or a process in your business that you want to streamline, chances are, there’s more than one app for that. Give yourself time to explore the options and experiment with the possibilities.
⇒ Do your research. Look for user tutorials and reviews online to familiarize yourself with the various platforms and gain insight into the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
⇒ Try it before you buy it. Most automation services offer free access to their most basic functions or a trial period to test-run their product–use them. If someone else on your team will be responsible for overseeing the automated process, have them explore the software to test efficiency and functionality and report back to you.
⇒ Check in with customer service. It doesn’t matter how much support is promised if it isn’t delivered. If accessible, action-oriented customer service is an important factor in your decision-making process, reach out through the provided channels and get that customer experience.
⇒ Read the terms and conditions. If your service contract is going to auto-renew in a year unless you reach out a month ahead of time to cancel, you need to know that. Reading the fine print may not be fun, but it is essential that you know what you’re signing up for.
Remember, the point of automation is to save you and your company time and, ideally, money. All the bells and whistles can be shiny and alluring, but if you aren’t going to use them in the next few months, consider opting in at a lower price point and upgrading your account down the road.
Invest and automate with intention.